I should have been SUPER sore.

A couple of weeks ago I ran my fastest 20 miler EVER. I should’ve been sore as hell at SOME point the following week. And I wasn’t. The only thing that hurt was the new blisters I earned from being an idiot. And even THOSE were fine by Tuesday. As a matter of fact, that Tuesday I knocked out a pretty fast 4 miles in the freshly blizzarded roads of my New England neighborhood.

What Gives?

Why was I not sore? Why did I feel nothing even remotely resembling the bedridden crippleness I would expect from such a (relatively) hard 3 hour and 38 minute effort Sunday?

It’s because I found the secret sauce.

Step 1: Accept that there is no magic pill. 

Sorry to break the news…but there is not some magic pill that saved me from being a useless human being this past week. There is no “one true way” for anything in the health & fitness world. If there WERE, we’d all be doing the same workout, using the same supplement brand, at the same gym, and someone out there would be a super-billionaire. The thing that works for the majority of people (or me) MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU. As long we have that understanding…we can move forward 🙂

Now then – the basics.

Q: Why do we get sore from working out?
A: During your workout, you’re breaking down muscle so it can build back up stronger.

That’s the short version, anyway. This breakdown usually leads to DOMS (Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness) – you’ve essentially damaged your body, so of course, you’re likely to feel that damage. This soreness (DOMS) can occur, arguably, anywhere from 6 to 72 hours after exercise (usually about 24 – 48 hours after). It is perfectly normal. 

OK, so what can I do about it?

As I suggested…there’s no one medically agreed-upon way to fix or prevent DOMS. If you scour the internet you’ll find MANY ideas on how to fix it. Below are five things I do that work awesome for me and seem to be considered effective by the internet at-large.

1. Have a plan

You want to be sure you don’t work the same muscle every day – they need a chance to recover. So, have a plan for how you’re going to break things up. A plan for the day, of course, but a longer term plan too. What are you doing today? Tomorrow? The rest of the week? Next week? How is next month laid out? Having a plan will ensure that you don’t waste time, your muscles can recover and work harder for you, and ultimately, over time, you can reach your goals.

This whole “have a plan” thing…honestly…it’s something you should be doing anyway – not just to avoid muscle soreness.

2. Hydrate

Your body is mostly made of water…and it tends to perform better and do what you want when you stay well-hydrated. Everyone and their mother tells you to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day…there’s a reason. To be safe, and to ensure your body has what it needs I say double that (hell, I drink even MORE than that)What’s the worst that happens (barring extreme circumstances)? You pee more? Good. 

This “hydrating” thing…it’s something you should be doing anyway.

3. Fuel

If there’s no gas in the tank, the car doesn’t go. Unfortunately, we humans can…and often DO…force our bodies to go when there’s not enough fuel consumed. Whether you get abnormally tired or sore…you will feel it. The solution is simple: EAT. Your body needs fuel to power it through the day. On top of that, your body needs more fuel to get through whatever workouts your asking it to get through. Eat appropriately for your weight loss/gain goals and activity level. I’m no expert, but here’s what I can offer for guidance on that front.

This, too, is something you should be doing anyway.

4. Rest

A critical part of this whole process is rest. Not just rest days as part of your “plan”…but actual REST. In a bed. You have to allow time for your muscles to recover, rebuild, and undo the damage done to them causing this soreness in the first place. It’s that simple. Get some sleep. If you’re not getting 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night…you’ll probably be more sore than you need to be.

Yes…You should be doing THIS anyway, too.

5. Recovery Aides / Supplements

The harder your workouts, the more they demand from your body. Don’t forget – how hard your workout is is relative to your athletic ability. A basic routine might still be pretty taxing if you’re a total rookie. The short version here is: use supplements. There are a number of different supplements that can help give your body the raw materials it craves in order to build back up stronger, faster and thus with less soreness. Whey Protein, Creatine, BCAA’s, Glutamine, “Recovery Blends” or “Post-Workout supplements”…there are a TON of options and ways to mix them.

So how do you sort it out and find the right one?

You need a pro. My strongest advice here is to find a local supplement store. NO – not a GNC/Vitamin Shoppe/Big Box…a local supplement/nutrition store. If you live in Massachusetts I STRONGLY recommend you find a Cape Cod Nutrition Corner. I liked them so much I wiggled my way into becoming one of their team athletes! They only stock products they believe in, they are incredibly knowledgeable about those products, and they’re going to give you unbiased opinions because they don’t make commissions from vendors.

Budget yourself $30 or $40/month for this. Most of the solutions they offer will only cost you roughly $1/serving. If you’re ok buying 10 for $10 yogurts at Stop & Shop or a coffee on the way to work, you should be ok with this option too. Stop by and see what they recommend. It could totally change the game for you 🙂

That’s really it.

In the end, no matter what, if you’re working really hardyou’re going to be at least a little sore. You CAN do a lot to deaden the blow…it’s not rocket science. You need to plan, eat, drink and sleep…and using supplements can help put you over the top in terms of reducing that soreness issue. Try it…and let me know how it works out for you.

Disclosure: As I mentioned, I am a Cape Cod Nutrition Corner Sponsored Athlete. As always, all opinions are my own, never bought, sold or influenced. Trust me – if I ever come across something I think is awful, or even sub-par, I won’t be shy about it. It simply hasn’t happened yet.